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added to his reputation by playing Macbeth. Don't you think so? Is it not his best part ?”
“ We actors must be cautious when we speak of actors. I think the Hamlet of Cooper even better than his Macbeth. But we shall see Cooke likewise, though not to advantage. I will speak frankly of the play and the players generally, provided you give me your opinion of Mrs. Spiffard's performance.”
Agreed. I have seen her in the character before; by Jove, she is superb! Let us go into this box.”
"No. These boxes are crowded. There is more room aloft: besides I don't like to sit below-I am too notorious.”
6 Well, well; but not the upper tier ; that is truly too notorious. Let's go into the Shakspeare."
This was a spacious central box in the second tier; principally occupied by men, and supposed to be the resort of critics. They took their seats accordingly, rather back from the stage, the front seats being already crowded. The play commenced.
Allen would have spoken, but Spiffard quietly remarked “ Between the acts there is time enough to compare notes. Let us now see, hear, and observe."
Mrs. Spiffard outdid herself, and exceeded her husband's expectations. She was, indeed, the undaunted leader of the wavering Thane. The instigator to atrocious murder. The woman who could unsex herself to place a crown on the head of her husband. Who could herself have done the deed of blood, but that the victim resembled her father. She embodied herself with the character; for it suited, as she felt, her appearance, and her histrionic powers. The soul with which the poet had endowed his creation, was transfused into the actress, as the fabled magician, leaving his own body, could animate the body of another, and accomplish his wishes, by appearing in the corse of one he had murdered. She possessed the queen-like port and towering height of Siddons, though not the elegance of her form. She could assume the insidious smile and courteous action, when she welcomed the good Duncan to the castle, where the nest of the swallow betokened purity of air, although she had already plotted the manner of his death. The high tone of her ill-governed mind enabled her to conceive and express the feelings of the haughty Scottish dame, while urging the Thane to treason and inhospitable homicide.
With an elevated head, surrounded and coped with locks and braids, glossy and black as the raven's plumage ; with murky brows, that could be elevated to a crescent, or bent
into the contorted wavings of a serpent; with a voice deep toned and clear, she spoke and looked the destiny of the man who would, but dared not.
All the scenes in which these terrible powers were displayed by the actress, had been witnessed by her husband, before the occurrence, which, as we shall see, occasioned his leaving the front of the theatre. Allen remained, and saw the consummation of her art; the triumph of her power over the audience.
When in the troubled wanderings of guilt-directed somnambulism, the actress appeared in her white night clothes, colourless, desolate, the black masses of dishevelled hair streaming portentously over the snow-white dress ; her glaring eyes starting from their sockets, to gaze upon the little bloody spot that would not "out.” That head so lofty and regal, which, at the banquet, had been decorated with a royal diadem, now devoid of ornament or covering. The tresses which then had been mingled with sparkling jewels, now hanging in lines on each side of the pallid countenance, and only striking the beholder with admiration of their unusual profusion, as they float over her snowy garments, forming a long black veil, almost sweeping the foor as she stalks, ghost-like, and with her death-white fingers strives to erase from her hand the stain fixed upon her soul. When the spectators beheld this, breath seemed suspended, and silence was only broken, when, by the vanishing of the figure, the magic of the scene ceased.
This last great exhibition of his wife's tragic powers, Spifford had not seen. For while, in the pride of his heart, he had been absorbed in admiration of the previous incidents of the play-while he was administering balm to his soul by the thought, “ surely such a mind will rise superior to all that is unworthy”—while filled with new hope, and elevated by a dignified matrimonial reflection from the mirror of the stage, two rough and clownish fellows, enveloped in coarse furzy overcoats, boisterously entered the box. They might, from their exterior and manner, have been two frequenters, if not inhabitants, of the Five-points, who had mistaken their way, and stumbled
upon the haunts of refinement instead of those devoted to noise and vulgarity. They strided from seat to seat, leaving on each the marks of their dirty boots, as I have seen men in better clothing do upon the benches of the pit. These ruffians took a station, standing, by the side of Spiffard, almost touching his elbow as he sat.
The noise they made in the lobby, and on their entrance, had annoyed our sensitive man of temperance. Their mode of approach and attitude annoyed him still more. His sense of propriety, and his physical senses, shared in the suffering ; he heard the crackling of roasted pea-nuts, and his olfactories were assailed by the smell of those rivals of Shakspeare, mingled with others, of tobacco and alcohol, brought in their clothing from the last tavern they had loitered in.
The senses of a temperate man are acute in proportion to their purity. The moral as well as physical sense of Spiffard was offended : his peculiar circumstances increased the offence.
The total indifference to the passing scene, which these intruders evinced, aggravated the irritation of Spiffard. He arose. He looked in their faces. They looked over his head. He mounted on the seat and stood beside them, swelling with indignation as near as might be to the size and height of the offenders. They heeded him not. He resumed his seat, that he might not disturb the performance.
" Who is that tall raw-boned grenadier of a woman ?" said one.
6 She's a thunderer."
“ She's a roarer. Any thing but a lady, thank’ee! Unless its a landlady. Fine feathers make fine birds ; or else she looks more like a landlady from Banker-street, than a woman fit for a room like that. See how she tosses her black mop about, and knits her burnt-cork eye-brows at Cooper."
This dialogue attracted the attention of Allen, who had been carried away by the passing scene of the stage. Spiffard saw this, and felt as if it was incumbent upon him to repress the insolence of these disturbers of peace and defiers of decency. The neighbouring young men, too, had their attention drawn from the stage, and with the levity of youth began to laugh; and one or two of them looked at Spiffard, as if recognising in him the husband of the actress on whom these indecent remarks were made. At least he thought so. Again he tried to look them into silence. That again failed. His choler rose--and he rose. Spiffard was conscious of his own extraordinary muscular strength, his agility, and his skill in all the arts of defence. He felt, and perhaps truly, that he could throw either of these big bullies into the pit; but he made as. marked a distinction as Sir Charles Grandison, between defence and offence; and such an act might be particularly offensive to the quiet people below. He squared himself with an air of defiance, and of threatened hostility. The aggressors
still overlooked him. When the drop-curtain fell, at the termination of the act, he sprung upon the seat, and his enemies not only looked towards him but made way for him.
Fixing his eyes on the nearest of his unwelcome neighbours, Spiffard said, with firmness and deliberation,You may imagine yourselves wondrous witty in your remarks the play and actors ; but you may be assured they savour more of ignorance than humour. Before you recommence, what I consider impertinence, I must inform you, that the lady of whom you have spoken disrespectfully, is my wife. To disturb an audience is a mark of blackguardism in which I did not think fit to imitate you. But, if the impertinence is repeated, I am willing and able to punish it.”. Spiffard appeared to be in earnest. His antagonists felt that they were wrong:
The offenders looked first at Spiffard and his handsome herculean companion, Allen-then at each otherlaughed—and as they meant nothing by their frivolous and thoughtless ribaldry, they turned away from the incensed comedian, and, quiting their conspicuous situation, silently left the box; not without covering their retreat by an affected laugh."
Spiffard felt himself a victor. The enemy had fled, and he was undisputed master of the field. He had been the champion of decency, good order, the fair sex generally, and his own wife in particular. He enjoyed the glow of self-approbation, and after having retained his triumphant stand for a few moments, he resumed his seat; but soon left his companiondescended from the Shakspeare--passed through the lobbies with longer strides than usual-walked somewhat heroically out of the theatre—passed through the crowd of blackguards in its front-groped his way through Ann-street and Theatrealley-(places at that time the resort and habitation of vice and depravity) and, having entered the back door of the playhouse, marched into the green-room with a dignified air, approaching a little, to swagger-passed unnoticed by the students who were conning their parts, at the last moment, before the expected summons of the call-boy—and took his stand with his back to the fire, (a coat skirt under each arm) as much like a thorough John Bull, as could be expected from one of John's Yankee progeny, even when swelling with the pride of self-approved prowess, and longing for an opportunity to relate the circumstances attending upon recent victory.
If our readers think such feelings incompatible with our water-drinker's good sense and real dignity of character, let them look back to their own lives, and examine the motives
for many of their past actions. Let them seek for the causes of those moments of exultation in which they have felt like heroes of romance, defying fortune or foe to harm them : or of those sinkings of the soul, when humbled in spirit, nothing on earth or in the air-nothing in man, or woman either,' delighted them; and probably they will find their causes for pride or despondency as little “ german to the matter" as those which now swelled the bosom of Zebediah Spiffard. Disease, water-gruel, nausea, sea-sickness, or dire, indefinable dyspepsia, are the devils which pull down courage : while good appetite, a good dinner, and good digestion, lift a man to the skies, as surely as gas does a balloon, unless he is well provided with ballast.' Now, the consciousness of having prevented the in
terruption of rational enjoyment in hundreds of well-disposed 1 citizens, and of having put down, by just reproof, the insolence - directed against a female, is a better cause for exultation than | beef or pudding, even when “good digestion waits on appotite and health on both."
Spiffard's recreant adversaries only laughed at the adventure, and soon forgot the tall lady with black hair and eyebrows, or her short sturdy husband. The incident I have related produced no effect on their future lives, that I know of. Not so with our hero. Trifling as the circumstance may appear, it was one, among other seemingly trifling, but really potent causes, which affected all the future course of his life; and aided in inflicting the keenest pangs of misery, and a deplorable death, on a highly gifted being.
We left Spiffard backing the green-room fire. The warmth of a good fire is no inoperative cause when properly appliedand philosophy has determined that heat expands matter.
It was Mr. Cooper's custom to walk into the green-room occasionally in his way from his dressing-room to the stage. Zeb tried to catch his eye in vain. He was too full of his own kingly attributes to notice the low comedian. He proceeded to and fro, he visited his festive hall, or his castle of Dunsinane, without appearing to note any thing of the real life of these degenerate days, when men die if their throats are cut, or the “ hrain is out,” and do not rise to “push us from our seats.”
Spiffard's desire to communicate grew with disappointment. He found an opportunity to mention the incident to the stagemanager, Mr. Simpson, who approved his conduct, but did not appear to enter sufficiently into the victor's feelings, or appreciate fully the service he had done.